Bums on Seats vs Shoes on Feet: Theatre and the Experience Economy

Bums on Seats vs Shoes on Feet: Theatre and the Experience Economy

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By Jamie Snelgrove, Business Development Manager, Theatre Tokens

Date Published: 13 September 2019

If you’re the kind of person that says ‘let’s have a nice evening out rather than buy a sixth pair of shoes’ the growth of the ‘experience’ economy in the UK shows you’re not alone in wanting to spend less money on buying things, and more on doing things.

In March this year Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive of Next, blamed the clothing chain’s first fall in profits for eight years on the move from buying things to doing things. More startlingly Ikea, the world’s biggest furniture retailer, think that consumption of many goods has reached a limit. “If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff,” said Steve Howard, the company’s Head of Sustainability.

A series of studies are revealing strange things about our spending habits. Writing in the Guardian Simon Usborne commented “They call it the ‘experience economy’, which gives it the sense of a grand theory. And there is science behind it, but it’s also very simple: regardless of political uncertainty, austerity and inflation, we are spending more on doing stuff, choosing instead to cut back on buying stuff.”

I’ve worked for Theatre Tokens for less than a year but already that is the message I am hearing from our members loud and clear.

New research by Barclaycard into the value of the experience economy shows more than half of consumers (52%) would rather pay for a good experience than splash out on material possessions such as clothes and shoes (although I don’t think you can have too many shoes!).

Figures from The UK Gift Card & Voucher Association (UKGCVA), the trade body for the industry, back this up. They estimate out of an annual spend of £6.2bn a year on Gift Vouchers in the UK, £1bn of that, and growing, is spent on ‘experience’ brands such as Theatre Tokens.

To best take advantage of this growth in the ‘experience’ market, we launched Theatre Tokens in Tesco stores in July. This opens up a massive new potential theatre audience who can buy a Theatre Token of up to £100, in 800 stores across the UK, alongside their weekly shop or even their lunchtime £3 meal deal (which as we all know is the best lunch bargain out there!)

Within the ‘experience’ economy there is such a lot of choice, so we want more people to consider a night out at the theatre, instead of buying shoes or the myriad other ‘experience’ options available to them.     

Our industry has the best ‘experience’ available that can be enjoyed by everyone. Let’s get more bums on seats and fewer feet in shoes!

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